Last weekend I enjoyed a day shooting at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. It was an event organised by Olympus UK, and provided by them as a free benefit of having recently purchased an OM-D E-M1 Mark II (to replace my trusty Mark I). Their team included experts on photography and on Kew Gardens (notably Marcus Clackson), and guided us to some good spots for the shots.
Shot using the 30mm Macro lens
I was also able to borrow gear to try out, so I tried a 30 mm (60 mm full-frame equivalent) macro lens, since my collection of lenses doesn’t include a macro, and I wanted to get up close inside the blooms! Actually my 12-40 mm (24-80 equiv) zoom can focus extremely close so is pretty good for macro work, and it was interesting to be able to compare it with 30 mm. (Verdict: the 30 is nice, but I’ll stick with the 12-40 for now). As always at Olympus UK events, the lovely Clare and Claire kept everything running smoothly.
It was a fantastic hot sunny day, the last of a few days of fine summer-like weather in an April that had until then been cold and miserable. So this weather brought out the crowds to Kew. It also brought extremely strong light. Too intense at times in the morning, but fortunately in my kit I have a small reflector that was useful for filling-in shadows. In the afternoon there was a bit of cloud and the light softened. By the way, I was grateful to the Olympus team for thinking of bringing some sun lotion along, something I wouldn’t think of having with me on an April day, but certainly needed.
An image generated using focus stacking
Kew Gardens were a blaze of colour! People said that a week earlier it had been dull, but a combination of plenty of rain followed by the sunshine had brought out the blooms. The blossoms were at their best, too.
As well as the time spent shooting, there was a technical session where a real E-M1 Mk.II guru answered in detail questions about the camera’s features. I asked for advice about focus stacking, in which the camera rapidly takes 8 shots at different focus settings and makes a composite image using the sharp parts of each of them. Like having a much greater depth of field than you deserve at a wide aperture. In the bright light I had been able to use this feature using the camera handheld for a few of the images. Secondly, I asked about Pro Capture mode, in which the camera is recording images continuously before you actually press the shutter. So if you miss the critical moment, well, you haven’t missed it. I used this with some effect capturing a bee hovering around some blossom.
Pro capture mode helped me capture this bee in the right place
I ended up with a pleasing set of images from the day. Another pleasure, as usual at this kind of event, is the interaction with the other photographers. There’s always something to learn from others. Oh, and Olympus treated us to a nice lunch in the Orangery café, followed by an ice cream for a lucky few, which seemed so right in the summer weather.